Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By ADAM SERRANO
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica –The Los Angeles Galaxy find themselves locked in a three-team dog fight for the final two places atop the CONCACAF Champions League's Group A.
With Alajuelense, Morelia, and the Galaxy currently tied at six points apiece, the Galaxy's match in Costa Rica may prove decisive if the MLS club is to qualify for the knockout rounds.
On Wednesday (10 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel/Galavision), the Galaxy will have their opportunity to distance themselves from Alajuelense, who currently sit third in the group table, and any away points that can be had at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto would be vital.
"If we win or even get a point from this game, it will go a long way towards qualifying," said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan. "When you play a round-robin like this, any time you get a point on the road, it's getting a point and taking points away, so it's crucial. That’s why the Mexico result hurt, but we’re fine. This is a team [Alajuelense] that we now know pretty well."
Due to the added importance of this match after the defeat in Morelia, the Galaxy have brought along midfielder David Beckham, whose attendance has caused quite a stir leading up to the game. Although the Galaxy will have most of their cavalcade of stars, Alajuelense will too be fresh, after half a dozen players were suspended for this past weekend's league match after a brawl in Liga's previous game.
Not only will the Galaxy be tested on the pitch by the Costa Rica champions, but they'll face a challenge in the stands as well, as they must handle the pressure of playing in front of Liga's rabid fanbase, who sit near the field's edge. Both Donovan and Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant have had experience playing in front of the fervent atmosphere of the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto during a Champions Cup match with San Jose in 2004. However, since their trip, the stadium has become even more imposing, with the addition of an unforgiving turf surface unlike any in MLS.
Throughout the Galaxy's practice at the stadium on Tuesday, the players spent considerable time testing the surface, which looks likely to have a great impact on the match on Wednesday.
"It’s an intimidating venue, so we’ve tried to give the guys kind of what to expect," said Dunivant. "It’s going to be people up against the cages, pounding, yelling everything you can imagine. It’s going to be a hostile environment for sure. We’re trying to get the guys prepped for that."
The match represents the first time that the Galaxy have traveled to Costa Rica for a CONCACAF tournament since 2006, a trip that proved disastrous for the MLS side.The Galaxy were controversially defeated by Deportivo Saprissa, 3-2 in CONCACAF Champions Cup play.
However, it was not the result, but what happened a day later that still haunts the Galaxy, as team president and general manager Doug Hamilton died of a heart attack while on a flight returning to Los Angeles from San Jose.
"Doug was such an integral part of the Galaxy and had built it up to such a powerhouse," Dunivant added. "Beyond that, he was such a good guy and friends to a lot of us beyond just the working side of it.
"Obviously, everything changed after that. If you look at what happened with our team, I think we started off [league play] with one win in maybe our first 10 games. [Actually, L.A. started 2-8-1.] It took a huge toll on us, really hit us hard and really took a long time for this organization to recover.
With Hamilton gone, but not forgotten, the Galaxy hope to build upon his winning legacy on Wednesday, by earning a victory in Costa Rica and inching ever closer to a place in the knock out stages.
"For us it's very important," said Donovan. "In the past a lot of [MLS] teams would go into Champions Cup or even this tournament and not take it all that seriously, but now teams take it very seriously. We absolutely want to advance. That's been our goal all year."
LA with a 2-0 win both goals from Donovan.
Fifa (Concacaf) is the one responsible of approving the fields for international play. Second, a fact about living in tropical countries: it rains. And it rains like hell. I’m talking 9 months out of the year. So, keeping up a good natural grass field is very costly. Plus, games don’t have to be cancelled due to rain (generally speaking). Third: artificial turf allows teams like Alajuela, Saprissa and others to rent out the stadiums for concerts or events. Fourth: Alajuela and Saprissa installed their turf less than two years ago, they’re the latest generations of artificial fields available. I even think these fields are newer than those of many fields in the US.
True. I read an interview with someone in the Sounders organization who claimed it’d be tens of thousands to resurface CenturyLink. Might be chump change for the Yankees or Lakers, but it’s a bit different in MLS.
big game tonight. I hope the officiating is fair, though I expect it to be ghastly and biased.
must gain result anyway
Come on Galaxy!!!
Then Seattle couldn’t play in the competition.
Make that Real Esteli.
Because that’d be a fiscal disaster for most clubs in CCL. You think clubs in Nicaragua, Honduras, etc. have extra cash sitting around for new surface? Judging from Tauro FC’s field, I doubt it.
Question: why doesn’t CONCACAF force all clubs competing in its competitions to install natural grass surface fields, or at least a playable surface?